Full Text of President Obama’s Remarks and Memorandum on Federal Benefits

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

___________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release                         June 17, 2009

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

AT THE SIGNING OF A

PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM

REGARDING FEDERAL BENEFITS AND NON-DISCRIMINATION

Oval Office


6:04 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, today I’m proud to issue a presidential memorandum that paves the way for long-overdue progress in our nation’s pursuit of equality.

Many of our government’s hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic public servants have long been denied basic rights that their colleagues enjoy for one simple reason — the people that they love are of the same sex.

Currently, for example, LGBT federal employees can’t always use sick leave to care for their domestic partners or their partners’ children.  Their partners aren’t covered under long-term care insurance.  Partners of American Foreign Service officers abroad aren’t treated the same way when it comes to the use of medical facilities or visitation rights in case of an emergency.

These are just some of the wrongs that we intend to right today.

In consultation with Secretary of State Clinton, as well as OPM Director John Berry, my administration has completed a long and thorough review to identify a number of areas where we can extend federal benefits to the same-sex partners of Foreign Service and executive branch government employees.

I’m requesting that Secretary Clinton and Director Berry do so where possible under existing law — and that the heads of all executive departments and agencies conduct reviews to determine where they may do the same.

Hundreds of Fortune 500 companies already offer such benefits not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because they recognize that it helps them compete for and retain the best possible talent — and we need top talent serving their country right now more than ever.

Now, under current law, we cannot provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

That’s why I’m proud to announce my support for the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, crucial legislation that will guarantee these rights for all federal employees.

I want to thank Representative Tammy Baldwin, who is behind me somewhere — there she is, right there — for her tireless leadership on this bill and in the broader struggle for equality.  I want to thank Senator Joe Lieberman — Joe is here — as well as Susan Collins for championing this bill in the Senate; and Representative Barney Frank for his leadership on this and so many other issues — in fact, this is his second trip to the White House today.  (Laughter.)

It’s a day that marks a historic step towards the changes we seek, but I think we all have to acknowledge this is only one step.  Among the steps we have not yet taken is to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.  I believe it’s discriminatory, I think it interferes with states’ rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it.

We’ve got more work to do to ensure that government treats all its citizens equally; to fight injustice and intolerance in all its forms; and to bring about that more perfect union.  I’m committed to these efforts, and I pledge to work tirelessly on behalf of these issues in the months and years to come.

Thank you very much everybody, and with that I am going to sign this executive order.

(The memorandum is signed.)  (Applause.)

END                6:08 P.M. EDT

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 17, 2009

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM ON FEDERAL BENEFITS AND NON-DISCRIMINATION, AND SUPPORT OF THE LIEBERMAN-BALDWIN BENEFITS LEGISLATION

In 2007, Michael Guest, the first openly gay Ambassador confirmed by the United States Senate, resigned from the Foreign Service. He loved his career, but he had to leave it in the end — because he believed that the country he served was failing to implement the principles of equality it espoused abroad. His partner was ineligible for training provided to Ambassadorial spouses; he bore the costs of his partner’s transportation to his placements abroad; and his partner did not receive the overseas benefits and allowances given to spouses of Ambassadors.

It is too late to prevent Ambassador Guest from having to make the choice he made, but today I am proud to issue a Presidential Memorandum that will go a long way toward achieving equality for many of the hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic LGBT Americans serving in our Federal Government — Americans like Ambassador Guest. In consultation with Secretary Clinton, who in her role as Secretary of State oversees our foreign service employees, and Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, who oversees human resource management for our civil service employees, my Administration has identified a number of areas in which greater equality can be achieved under existing law by extending to the same-sex partners of Federal employees many of the same benefits already available to the spouses of heterosexual Federal employees. I am therefore requesting the Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to extend the benefits they have identified to the same-sex partners of Federal employees where doing so can be achieved consistent with Federal law. I am also requesting the heads of all other executive departments and agencies to conduct a review of the benefits they administer to determine which may legally be extended to same-sex partners.

But this Presidential Memorandum is just a start. Unfortunately, my Administration is not authorized by existing Federal law to provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. That’s why I stand by my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. It’s discriminatory, it interferes with States’ rights, and it’s time we overturned it.

I am also proud to announce my support for an important piece of legislation introduced in both Houses of Congress last month — the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009. This legislation will extend to the same-sex partners of Federal employees the same benefits already enjoyed by the opposite-sex spouses of Federal employees. The legislation has a number of co-sponsors in both Houses of Congress, but among those many sponsors, I want to recognize one in particular — Representative Tammy Baldwin, who has been a real leader on this issue, and more broadly on the LGBT struggle for equality. Representative Baldwin, I look forward to working with you to achieve the important objectives set out in this bill as it moves through the legislative process. I also look forward to working with the bill’s Senate champions, Senators Lieberman and Collins; I know that they will approach this process with the same spirit of cooperation in pursuit of our shared goals that they bring to all of their work in the Senate.

Extending equal benefits to the same-sex partners of Federal employees is the right thing to do. It is also sound economic policy. Many top employers in the private sector already offer benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees; those companies recognize that offering partner benefits helps them compete for and retain the brightest and most talented employees. The Federal Government is at a disadvantage on that score right now, and change is long overdue.

As Americans, we are all affected when our promises of equality go unfulfilled. Through measures like the Presidential Memorandum I am issuing today and the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, we will advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded and continue to perfect our Union.

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 17, 2009
June 17, 2009
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination
Millions of hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic public servants are employed by the Federal Government as part of the civilian workforce, and many of these devoted Americans have same-sex domestic partners. Leading companies in the private sector are free to provide to same-sex domestic partners the same benefits they provide to married people of the opposite sex. Executive departments and agencies, however, may only provide benefits on that basis if they have legal authorization to do so. My Administration is not authorized by Federal law to extend a number of available Federal benefits to the same-sex partners of Federal employees. Within existing law, however, my Administration, in consultation with the Secretary of State, who oversees our Foreign Service employees, and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, who oversees human resource management for our civil service employees, has identified areas in which statutory authority exists to achieve greater equality for the Federal workforce through extension to same-sex domestic partners of benefits currently available to married people of the opposite sex. Extending available benefits will help the Federal Government compete with the private sector to recruit and retain the best and the brightest employees.
I hereby request the following:
Section 1. Extension of Identified Benefits. The Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management shall, in consultation with the Department of Justice, extend the benefits they have respectively identified to qualified same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees where doing so can be achieved and is consistent with Federal law.
Sec. 2. Review of Governmentwide Benefits. The heads of all other executive departments and agencies, in consultation with the Office of Personnel Management, shall conduct a review of the benefits provided by their respective departments and agencies to determine what authority they have to extend such benefits to same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees. The results of this review shall be reported within 90 days to the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, who, in consultation with the Department of Justice, shall recommend to me any additional measures that can be taken, consistent with existing law, to provide benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal Government employees.
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Sec. 3. Promoting Compliance with Existing Law Requiring Federal Workplaces to be Free of Discrimination Based on Non-Merit Factors. The Office of Personnel Management shall issue guidance within 90 days to all executive departments and agencies regarding compliance with, and implementation of, the civil service laws, rules, and regulations, including 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(10), which make it unlawful to discriminate against Federal employees or applicants for Federal employment on the basis of factors not related to job performance.
Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) Authority granted by law or Executive Order to an agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) Functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
Sec. 5. Publication. The Director of the Office of Personnel Management is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
BARACK OBAMA

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1 Comment

  1. […] Filed under: Author – ACG, Politics | Tags: Equality, Gay rights, Obama Campaign Promises Full text via Tommy Christopher […]


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